by Marcus Estrada
Neverending Nightmares is a hard game to play. By that I don’t mean something along the lines of a super-precise platformer or adventure game with outrageously complex puzzles. Instead, this is a title with such an overwhelmingly creepy atmosphere that it is hard to sit down and play. During my playthrough, it was hard to sit through the experience for more than 30 minutes at a time. Very rarely are games able to cause such sensations in players.
So, what kind of game is it and how does Neverending Nightmares incite dread in players? First off, it can be most simply described as a 2D adventure game. Players walk left and right through dream-like landscapes as they interact with key objects. Each level appears to be its own nightmare – each similar but distinct in their own disturbing ways. The storyline is told simply through bits of dialogue and visuals, but it’s not hard to grasp that your character is incredibly frightened about his sister dying.
Listing out the mechanics honestly makes this game seem a bit boring. However, sitting down to actually play Neverending Nightmares reveals it is anything but. Without any further explanation, you’re tossed into the role of a brother in his pajamas. This man has just startled himself awake and yet finds himself in the midst of another nightmare. With no knowledge of what to expect, every area is frightening. Wandering past windows and doors frightened me as I had no idea what might occur. Thanks to the incredibly powerful environment it was easy to become involved.
Visuals and audio are often important in games but in this case they’re absolutely necessary to convey a life burdened by depression and terrifying dreams. First, the artwork is astounding. (Almost) everything is black and white and drawn in a sketched style. The edges of each area are permeated in darkness thanks to many drawn lines overlapping. These patches of darkness flicker, shift, and overwhelm the screen at times which lend to the frightening presence. The cartoon-ish human characters seem to improperly contrast with the backdrop’s dark mood, but don’t detract too much.
As for the audio, it needs some kind of award for perfectly complimenting (and maybe even creating) a sense of dread in players. It begins simply but as you progress through more chapters far more insidious tunes start to play. They all have a sort of innocence about them which is corrupted. Considering the visuals mimic this concept, the soundtrack fits right in and is distinct from any other horror games. Audio cues, on the other hand, feel a bit underwhelming. It’s entirely too common in horror films and games to utilize a sudden, loud string instrument riff to accompany jump scares.
With that said, jump scares aren’t actually that common and this was a huge plus. To me, copious use of jump scares symbolizes a lack of understanding of horror. Thanks to their sparing use here, players are able to become overwhelmed while playing without Neverending Nightmares unfairly manipulating players. On one hand, it’s a relief to discover the game ends at about 1 and ½ hours in. It’s hard to take much more of the continual nightmares.
There are three endings that players can achieve through multiple playthroughs. Although each is interesting, I would actually recommend against seeing them all. This is because the first playthrough is intense – and special. By playing you are able to more easily perceive the game’s faults and no longer be afraid. Like Journey and Gone Home, Neverending Nightmares is an amazing experience the first time. My recommendation is to clear two hours from your schedule, put on headphones, and explore the utterly terrifying experience that is Neverending Nightmares.
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[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/marcus.jpg”]Marcus is a fellow with a love for video games, horror, and Japanese food. When he’s not writing about games for a multitude of sites, he’s usually still playing one. One day when he became fed up with the way sites would ignore niche titles he decided to start his own site by the name of Pixel Pacas. Writing about video games is something he hopes to continue doing for many years to come. Some of Marcus’s favorite games include Silent Hill 2, Killer7, and The Sims. [/author]